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Thread: 2006 Repertory

  1. #16
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    Few if any of these have flaws that I consider in any way significant. Posts are written as to provide, as succintly as possible, a brief description, reasons why I like the film particularly, and a bit of context. Sufficient, I would think, as a starting point for any potential discussion (you know I appreciate and respond to any query or dissenting point of view).
    Of course I know the latter and appreciate it. Not seeing any flaws could give one less to discuss, however, I'm afraid; likewise with giving only "a brief description." It's only when you open up a bit that you give another viewer/reader something to chew on or respond to. And as I implied, this is a forum website, for dicussion; just reading your log of viewings isn't interesting or in keeping with the site. Granted, many of us post longer reviews of movies, usually new ones, and don't get much response from those either. Nonetheless you may be providing somebody with some useful information, though the more the list is just random in its order the less that's likely to happen.

    I don't think most viewers would buy the evaluaton of Molokh as "engaging" and "highly stimulating." The pace is leaden and the plot almost nonexistent. It's worth looking at all Sokurov's recent efforts to see the stylistic elements. I personally liked Father and Son, though one could be pretty critical of it. For me it all comes together in The Sun.

    I don't quite buy that my calling Casque d'Or "uninvolving" says more about me than about the film, but maybe it's too operatic for me; I'm not an opera fan. Here you are calling Molokh "engaging" and "highly stimulating," so your pulse seems to go up awfully easily. I feel stimulated when I see Signoret with her beauty and energy on the screen, but I don't feel the romance is developed very well. I was expecting more crime and more love.

    I would think "film buffs" have always been "rediscovering" Boettecher ever since the 70's, or they sort of were then, when I went to some PFA event with Tom Luddy I think, and some expert who'd written a book on Boettecher. Sounded really cool, but I didn't pursue it, partly because since childhood I thought you were either a cops-n-robbers buy or a westerns guy and I was a cops-n-robbers guy, I knew that from the first movie I ever saw, like when I was about 8. Anyway good that more Boettecher titles are to be released on DVD, assuming DVD's last.

    True Cold Water probably would appeal, and I am accumulating more titles to look for when I'm in Paris, though it will depend on what I can find in shops. For me it's all good, since a crap film in French can be fun for me, depending on the language.

    Alexander Korda--yeah, definitely.but he is listed as the, or an, uncredited director of Thief of Baghdad, and he directed 63 movies. Liked The Jungle Book too, also with Sabu. Love Sabu, and would gladly wade through all his movies, probably. How sad that he died suddenly at 39! Korda and his brothers were huge in the British film industry and notable for some major productions with high production values. Maybe the Kordas paved the way for Merchant Ivory and Masterpiece Theater.

  2. #17
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    Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    I don't think most viewers would buy the evaluaton of Molokh as "engaging" and "highly stimulating."

    I don't give the matter much consideration. I only speak for myself. The film exposes some fascinating angles regarding the nature of evil and, those interested in the historical figure will find fresh, thought-provoking material on the private Hitler. There are valid reasons why Molokh won Best Screenplay at Cannes '99.

    The only way I know to measure what "most viewers would buy" is the IMdb ratings, which support your contention quoted above. It's rated 15th out of 17 Sokurov features, although it's ahead of 16th place Father and Son. Others: #2 The Sun, #4 Mother and Son, and #8 Russian Ark. Spiritual Voices, the poetic doc about Russian soldiers stationed in Afghanistan which is his longest at 5h.38min. and, by far, his most relaxed and uneventful (a bit too distented for my taste and still worth watching if you have the time) places rather high at #6!
    Viewer Ratings for Sokurov Films

    I personally liked Father and Son, though one could be pretty critical of it.

    I was: Father and Son

    I would think "film buffs" have always been "rediscovering" Boetticher ever since the 70's, or they sort of were then, when I went to some PFA event with Tom Luddy I think, and some expert who'd written a book on Boetticher.

    I hadn't realized this. Makes sense, as some random Boetticher titles were released on vhs in the 80s. Paradoxically, this didn't include many of his best westerns.

    I didn't pursue it, partly because since childhood I thought you were either a cops-n-robbers buy or a westerns guy and I was a cops-n-robbers guy, I knew that from the first movie I ever saw, like when I was about 8.

    This type of strict preference for a type of movie over another is probably the norm yet totally foreign to me.

    Anyway good that more Boettecher titles are to be released on DVD, assuming DVD's last.

    His noir Behind Locked Doors, which presaged Fuller's Shock Corridor, is being reissued next month as part of a noir box. The Glenn Ford western Man From the Alamo, already out in Great Britain, will probably follow.

    Alexander Korda--yeah, definitely.but he is listed as the, or an, uncredited director of Thief of Baghdad

    Apparently there are scenes in the film directed by six people, including Alexander Korda and his brother.

    Liked The Jungle Book too, also with Sabu. Love Sabu, and would gladly wade through all his movies, probably.

    You would probably enjoy a couple he made in the late-30s: Elephant Boy and The Drum. But the best film that includes Sabu in the cast was Powell's gorgeous Black Narcissus. Dave Kehr called Sabu "the Shirley Temple of British imperialism" :)

  3. #18
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    PETER IBBETSON (Henry Hathaway/1935/USA)

    An utterly atypical film coming from Hollywood and from a director of limited skills who dabbled mostly in action/adventure pictures_The Lives of a Bengal Lancer is his most popular film.

    Peter Ibbetson is an adaptation of a novel by George du Maurier. The first act or prologue presents the intensely affectionate relationship between an English boy and girl who live in the outskirts of Paris in the 1850s. When her mother dies, the boy's stern uncle changes his name to Peter and takes him to London. In the second chapter, Peter has grown into an emotionally dissatisfied, yearning architect played by Gary Cooper. The story progresses at a stately pace until Peter is assigned to design a building at the country manor of the Duke of Towers. Over the course of several weeks, Peter and the Duchess (Ann Harding) develop a special closeness, one that remains repressed until the jealous Duke brings it into the open. The brutal revelation brings about the discovery that they are each other's childhood sweetheart. The duchess promises fidelity to her husband but her love for Peter is too intense to control. The Duke attempts to shoot them but ends up killed accidentally, resulting in Peter's sentence of life imprisonment. Up to this point, Peter Ibbetson is reminiscent of a sophisticated but conventional Cukor/Selznick upper-class period piece.

    Whereas typically a film would appeal to the viewer's emotions at this juncture and become a so-called weepie or melodrama, Peter Ibbetson turns to exalted mysticism and surrealist poetry. Separated for life, the would-be lovers meet in shared dreams whose vividness is greater than life's. The Duchess shows Peter how to leave the prison with her, escape to the outdoors, and return to the Paris of their childhood. Charles Lang's photography, until then sharp and elegant, now plays with shards of light streaming into dark spaces, variable and selective focus, and diffuse edges. The crisp editing of the early sequences disappears in favor of dreamy dissolves and long fade-to-blacks. "Who is to say what is real and what is not" she tells Peter, "we dream true". This film's death scenes, and what comes after, constitute the most idyllic presentation of the end of life-on-earth in the history of the medium.

    It's no surprise to learn that Andre Breton, the writer/poet best known as the main founder of surrealism, called the film "a triumph of surrealist thought" and singled it out as "the only film besides L'Age d'Or (Bunuel's) to express the surrealist faith in l'amour fou". Bunuel himself listed Peter Ibbetson as one of the best ten films of all time. The film evidences what can happen when a studio disregards commercial considerations if required in order to adapt a literary source with integrity and artistry.

  4. #19
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    How did you learn about this rare item?

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    Entirely by accident! I'm a big Ernst Lubitsch fan so I decided to have a Lubitsch retrospective at home. Not the ones I know by heart (Ninotchka, To Be or Not to Be, The Shop Around the Corner, Heaven Can Wait, Lady Windermere's Fan) but some less familiar titles like Eternal Love, The Marriage Circle, The Merry Jail, and Design for Living. The latter is included as part of a Gary Cooper box and the disc also includes Peter Ibbetson. So I said "might as well..." and the Hathaway picture turned out better than the quite-good Lubitsch one!

  6. #21
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    Serendipity.

  7. #22
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    THE DARK CORNER (Henry Hathaway/1946/USA)

    Hathaway again, with a movie more representative of his output. His best of several noirs, not a masterpiece but a solid film I enjoyed particularly because of four aspects:
    1) Extremely well-written dialogue. Samples:
    -"How I hate the dawn! The grass looks as if it had been left out all night".
    -"The enjoyment of art is the only remaining ecstasy that is neither illegal nor immoral"
    -To a client that remarks that a particular painting grows on you: "You make it sound like some kind of fungus".
    2) Joe MacDonald's cinematography, particularly his effective use of shadows as leitmotiv: the shadow of a revolving fan over a corpse, the shadow of two lovers cast across a doorway into the next room, thus revealing their secret embrace, etc.
    3) Waldo Lydecker as a villanous art dealer with a plan to have his younger wife's lover murdered. Deliciously urbane and sardonic, like the character Lydecker plays in Preminger's Laura.
    4) Lucille Ball as few remember her. She's quite believable as the framed dick's sensual, loyal, tough and resourceful secretary.

  8. #23
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    TRACK OF THE CAT (William Wellman/1954/USA)

    William Wellman, one of those studio directors forced to make three films he didn't care about for every one he did, had dreamed of adapting Walter Van Tilburg Clark's novel since its publication in 1949 (Wellman had already adapted successfully Clark's The Oxbow Incident in 1943). Wellman's pal John Wayne decided to produce this frontier drama in 1954, following their hit The High and the Mighty. They hired A.I. Bezzerides (Kiss Me Deadly, They Drive By Night) to write the screenplay.

    It's a saga about what we would presently call a "disfunctional" family, who own a ranch in the Rocky Mountains. Pa is a lecherous alcoholic, married to the cruel, Bible-quoting Ma (Beulah Bondi). Curt (Robert Mitchum) is the mean-spirited and ruthless middle son. Young Harold wants to start his own ranch and to marry the beautiful and fiesty Gwen, but allows Curt to dominate him. Arthur, the oldest, tries to avoid confrontation by burying his head in poetry books. Then there's Grace, a reluctant spinster who protests against Ma and Curt's power plays; and Joe Sam, a superstitious, Native American hired hand. The drama that takes place mostly indoors is reminiscent of a play written by Eugene O'Neill. Outdoors, a menace slays men and steer with allegorical abandon: a black panther, presumably that is, because it remains unseen throughout the movie.

    The script and the performances are very good. The narrative is highly engaging. Yet, what makes Track of the Cat special and unique is the cinematography by William Clothier, particularily the use of color. This Cinemascope film was shot in color film stock, but most of what we see is black and white! The wardrobe, the sets, and the props in the indoor scenes are black, white, and dark shades of blue, green, and brown. Outdoors, the white snow blankets the ground and the dark green of the pine trees looks black under overcast skies. Against this muted background, certain brightly colored props and garmets carry expressive and symbolic significance. Goes without saying, that mainstream audiences looking for conventional entertainment of the western/adventure variety didn't embrace the literary and experimentally arty Track of the Cat.

  9. #24
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    EDVARD MUNCH (Peter Watkins/1974/Norway-UK)

    I picture the man who created the iconic Expressionist painting "The Scream" in art heaven. He's clearly proud to be the subject of perhaps the best film ever made about the life and times of an artist. There he is, a bit coy about catching envious glances from his peers. Edvard Munch is a thorough, impecabbly researched, poli-faceted masterpiece. Labels such as "biopic" or "documentary" are insufficient to describe Peter Watkins' film, which premiered on Norwegian TV but was conceived as a theatrical feature.

    Munch was born to a middle class family in 1863 but the film focuses on his his late teens and twenties, when Munch became an artist and frequented European intellectual circles populated by painters, philosophers, art critics and poets. Rather than follow a straight chronology, Watkins attempts to recreate an interior reality, in which significant events from the past impinge upon the present reality and the artistic process. Brief scenes from childhood, including Munch's memories of his mother and sister struggling in vain against the consumption that killed them, are interspersed with scenes of Munch at his studio and socializing in cafes. Few films depict so convincingly the fractured nature of memory. Watkins himself reads in voice-over Munch's letters and diary entries. Almost simultaneously, he provides commentary and clarifying information about several characters. At times, the narration provides historical context that's unrelated to the corresponding images, but enrich the experience by educating the viewer about the larger historical and cultural forces affecting the characters.

    Watkins' narration and scenes in which the actors stare directly at the camera (thus breaking down the so-called fourth wall) make the viewer aware of the inherent subjectivity of attempting to convey what it was like to live in 19th century Europe and create revolutionary art. Perhaps Watkins' greatest achievement is that he's made a complex, intellectual film that is easy to watch and follow.

  10. #25
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    THE SEVENTH CONTINENT (Michael Haneke/1989/Austria)

    The first theatrical feature by the director of Code Unknown, Funny Games and Cache is finally available. It was recently released on dvd by Kino Video and includes an interview with the director. If you like Haneke's movies and you know you want to watch The Seventh Continent perhaps you shouldn't read further. It's impossible to give a sense of The Seventh Continent's uncompromising bleakness without revealing its resolution.

    The Seventh Continent is divided in three parts, each consists of one day in the lives of a married couple and their school age daughter. The action takes place in 1987, 1988 and 1989. Most of what we observe are typical, routine activities for a middle class family in a Western country: getting ready for work and school, shopping, preparing meals, eating, commuting, watching TV, visiting relatives, getting the car washed, etc. Many of these scenes are shot in close-up to reinforce their everyday, universal quality, and separated by 5-second intervals in which the screen goes pitch black. Among them some scenes stand out: the girl pretends to go blind at school one day; when she gets home she denies it at first, then admits to it and gets a slap from mom. In another scene, the family drive past an serious accident site, and moments later, at the carwash, Mom bursts into tears. The Seventh Continent is based on newspaper reports about a young successful couple who poisoned their daughter and themselves to death for no apparent reason. Even more compelling is the fact that they destroyed everything that had any connection to them: photos, records, pets, clothing, appliances, furniture, the girl's drawings... A scene in which they methodically flush their money down the toilet caused the most walkouts at Cannes, according to Haneke. The fact that the movie presents no clear psychological explanation for their decision result in a devastating indictment of modern life itself, and a negation of middle class values. This couple didn't simply want to stop living, they wanted to destroy anything that might remind others that they ever lived. Films don't come any bleaker or angrier than Haneke's debut.

  11. #26
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    This is the most depressing movie I have ever seen.

  12. #27
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    For various reasons, I regularly refrain from labeling a movie as "depressing". Movies typically don't depress me, to begin with, and the rare ones that do are not the same movies anyone else calls "depressing". So, from where I sit, the designation is quite arbitrary. Well, this time I am making an exception and agreeing with you. The Seventh Continent, which I like very much or I wouldn't be posting my comments on this particular thread, is the opposite of life-affirming; a film thoroughly devoid of humor and joie de vivre. It's designed, with masterful precision, to convey life as experienced from the perspective of the suicidal couple.

  13. #28
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    True indeed, "depressing" like "boring" is a subjective term and might not be very useful in critcism generally speaking; but there are a few cases where anyone can agree that the subject matter of a movie is truly depressing. I am prone to depression and a person like me has to be careful what they watch. To say a movie about a whole family that commits collective suicide isn't depressing would be impossible, absurd. I'd be hard put to come up with what positive value or life-affirming elements are to be found here. Consider the alternative. Is it life-affirming? Haneke is deliberately being difficult and provocative. This stance of his more recently has seemed to have a much more positive value. Cache is talking about responsibility. It's also stimulating and tantalizing in a subtle way. The Seventh Continent isn't melodramatic or sensational, but there's nothing subtle about it. And what positive value it has is hard to see. It's impressive for its relentlessness and for taking an audience somewhere they've never gone before. That's all. It emerges as distinctive in terms of the work that's come after. Haneke has evolved and is evolving.

    When I say The Seventh Continent is the most depressing movie I've ever seen, it isn't hyperbole.

    For a counter-example, take Kurosawa's Ikiru. It's about an aging man who learns he's going to die and in desperation flails aobut for what to do during the months that remain to him. But for me Ikiru is the most life-affirming movie I've ever seen, and it's my all-time favorite film.

    Haneke seems to have been struggling to find humanistic values in the modern world, but in his search since this movie he has increasingly found things.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-18-2006 at 10:27 PM.

  14. #29
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    THE SHANGHAI GESTURE (Josef von Sternberg/1942/USA)

    Josef von Sternberg once apologized to the mayor of Marrakech for the "accidental resemblance" of some sets in his Morocco to actual Marrakech streets. More than any other filmmaker, he valued artifice over reality, aiming to create illusionary worlds that contained erotic fantasies and meditations on death and morality. One of his most characteristic pictures, perhaps his last hit, was this loose adaptation of a badly dated 20s play about a Chinese woman taking revenge on the Westerner who abandoned her and took their daughter away two decades prior. She is Mother Gin Sling (Ona Munson), a most flamboyant character who rules over the ultimate gambling den (which replicates the circular design of a roulette wheel). The breathtakingly beautiful Gene Tierney plays the pleasure-seeking Poppy, a tortured young woman who never met her mother. Sternberg deflects the play melodrama by shifting the focus away from the tragic trio onto a character of his own creation: Victor Mature's Omar. He is an ironic, sexually ambivalent, lover of Persian poetry who's loyal only to Gin Sling and to his own appetites. You can taste and smell the decadence in this highly atmospheric film full of murky emotions and motivations.

    (I watched this film on dvd. The negative used for this transfer is in acceptable shape but it has not undergone digital restoration. The sound in particular would benefit greatly from such a procedure).

  15. #30
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    I suppose I should see this, but too bad it's not a better print and transfer.

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